Updated: Apr 10
After that I went to Combatant Dive School. This was what all the fuss was about with the Pre-scuba courses. Dive School was so hard, you had to pass another school to go to it. It was in Panama City, Florida. And my class was there during spring break. Well I guess it didn’t spring that break. Because it was cold as shit. I remember breaking the ice off of my wetsuit to put it on for 3 AM dives. You struggled to get it on. The ice breaks off in little bits as you wriggle into it, shuddering. We had already prepped the boats and pre-dive checked the rigs so all we had to do was just come in and dive. Put on your wet cammies (camouflage utilities) over your wetsuit to further irritate you. Your hood is annoying as fuck hanging off the back of your neck at some wonky angle. Your buddy helps you put your dive rig and buoyancy compensator on. You do so grudgingly; the strap hanging the entire weight of the rig around the back of your neck is another pain in the ass. You waddle over to help your buddy get into his rig. You get your fins, mask, Duece gear, rucksack with a full 5 gallon water can in it, buddy line, buoy line, whoever is “driving” (the lead diver) has the compass board “dummy chorded” and snap linked to his rig. Hanging off. Now put the damned mask around your neck under your chin, and the regulator hanging off your head to the front. Your fucking back hurts. This goddamn weight belt needs to be adjusted and now I gotta piss already, god damn it. Not to mention that we’re diving pure oxygen, which makes you irritable anyway. Dive Sūp (Supervisor) Checks are starting already. “Dive Sūp. It’s my first dive of the day and I feel fine.” The Dive Supervisor, supremely comfortable in cammie bottoms (camouflage trousers), Chuck Taylors, and a voluptuous hoodie, inspects each diver and rig in a ritual and thorough inspection. You stand awkwardly and wait your turn.
“Grab all your shit and get to the boats.” It’s fuckin freezing and there’s a wind. The wetsuit begins to prove its worth. You drag and haul your kit to the boats and flop in. The air is thick with the exhaust of the outboard motors. You sit and rest on the rubber gunnel the weight of the dive rig resting on your lap finally relieving the strain on your sore neck. The wind whips up a little shit ass spray from the surface of the water, which keeps hitting you in the face, but the surface chop isn’t too bad, and there was no swell in the bay, so it’s just the vindictive little spitting of mother nature in your face that pisses you off extra. The smell of gasoline and burning oil in blue smoke from the engines hangs in the air. The boats look like chemlight creatures jostling along the choppy surface at a quick clip toward the insert point 2 thousand meters away from the pier, which was the target. It’s miserable, but you don’t bother worrying about it because you know it’s about to get even worse.
You had to dive on time and on target. You had to show up exactly when and where you needed to be with only the initial bearing of the compass once you were in the water, then one tactical peak, where 500 or so meters from the target, the driver with the compass board would ease toward the surface while his buddy and other divers below held on to the buddy line that they were all snap linked into. The driver-diver eased up to the surface, compass board at the ready and as soon as his head broke the surface was pulled back down by the divers below him. He had just a split second to check his bearing and distance to the target before he was pulled back below the surface. Then it was on to the target to do whatever dastardly deed needed doing.
We learned how to dive SCUBA there as well, but our tool of the trade was a Drager LAR V closed circuit re-breather. It was a small chest mounted rig and used only pure oxygen while scrubbing the Carbon Dioxide out of the breathing loop with Sofnolime or Sodasorb - the same stuff you use to make lawns nice and green. So essentially you were under water breathing the same air over and over again but it was being supplemented by pure O2 and all the CO2 was being scrubbed out of it in a continuous loop. This was handy because there were no bubbles from it to give away the presence of divers to anyone on the surface, as there was with SCUBA. You could only go 20-25 feet deep or you would get O2 toxicity, but it was a great rig for sneaking up on piers, or boats, or fish. I surprised the hell out of something big down there one night on accident. I was 20 feet down skimming the bottom when all the sudden a shitload of phosphorescence stirred up just below me and scared the ever-living shit out of me. There were Hammer-head sharks in that bay, maybe it was one of those. Sometimes the guys at the dive locker back at the unit would help themselves to any lobster that might be lying around the bottom of the ocean. They were easy as hell to sneak up on with that rig because it was so quiet, and as far as the game warden knew it was just a couple of guys in a rubber dingy out on the water minding their own business. You could stay down for a couple of hours on those things, but they did make you irritable as fuck, and as there were no bubbles, you could yell and cuss at each other through the regulator and hear pretty damn well.
Anyway, back to the story: You had to be on time and on target. The engines idle. The boats drift to a stop in the wind. The Dive Sūp points to the divers and gives them the command to enter the water. You hold onto your weight belt and back strap with one hand and onto your mask and regulator with the other and roll back in. The icy water shocks the breath out of you and begins to fill your wetsuit. You purge your rig. Your rucks get passed down to you. The driver checks his azimuth. You give the OK. You get a 2 (two fingered hand signal) from the dive Sup, which means to go sub-surface, and return it. You let some air out of your buoyancy compensator and sink into the black ocean water. The sound of the idling boat motors is very loud. Everything else is dull. The pressure of the water closes cold and dark around you. Even your sense of touch is tempered by the feel of the wetsuit everywhere, even on your finger tips. You piss yourself finally as you sink, relieving the strain of the past hours. The warmth is delicious in your wetsuit. The driver is ready. It’s time to fin. And kick and kick and kick and kick and kick.
NOTE: Finally Somehow Home is a separate book from The Perfect Fucking Life, and is not yet in publication at the time of this post.
All this shit is written and created by Jason Lee Morrison © 2022